After spending a couple of days in Oslo and then a day in Kirkenes , Norway, I boarded the Hurtigruten coastal cruiser "Midnatsol" for a week-long cruise south along the coast to Bergen.
Each day I walked down to the gift shop on deck 5 to look at the beautiful Dale of Norway sweaters. The heavy hand-knitted sweaters are iconic Norwegian. They're beautiful and they're expensive. The women’s sweaters, usually in the $200 to $350 range, can sell for as much as $600.
At the end of the cruise, when we docked in Bergen, I checked into my hotel and went for a walk through the neighborhood. Almost immediately I noticed a rack of beautiful vintage Norwegian sweaters through the window of the Fretex, or Salvation Army, thrift store which was exactly what I'd been hoping for. (When I traveled to Iceland I picked up my prized Icelandic sweater at the same kind place.) It was too late to shop but I was there when the store opened the next morning.
The sweaters were older versions of what I'd seen on the ship and in store windows down by the touristy section of town. The most expensive, a long red Dale of Norway sweater was priced at only $83. I was tempted and tried it on but it was too big. That’s how it goes when you’re thrift shopping. Sometimes you win, sometimes you don’t.
I moved on to the books where I spent the next hour, my head tilted at an angle as I moved along reading titles. There were pre-war schoolbooks, beautifully illustrated art books and even Norwegian translations of American classics like Margaret Mitchell's "Gone with the Wind."
I looked through the household items and was seriously tempted by a partial spice set with the names of the spices written in curling script on the front but let them stay. They were pretty to look at but not something I needed or would use.
I did leave Bergen with one vintage souvenir, though: a small hotel-silver coffee pot. I didn't recognize the hallmarks on the bottom but it is heavy and in great condition. Perfect for serving coffee or hot chocolate on the patio, or by the fireplace in cold weather.
I'm bringing home the usual assortment of standard souvenirs for my family but so far, with reindeer antlers, the vintage coffee pot and sea glass I picked up by a fjord, my own keepsakes from my trip to Norway are more unique and personal.
And that’s exactly why I’ll treasure them the most, of course.
Cheryl-Anne Millsap is a travel writer whose audio essays can be heard on Spokane Public Radio and on public radio stations across the country. She is the author of ‘Home Planet: A Life in Four Seasons’ and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org